Vikings hope strong finish carries over in Regional

Guilford senior Maikel Fresco throws a pitch during a 9-4 win over Harlem last week. The Vikings are the fourth seed in their regional, despite winning 13 of their last 15 games. Photo by Matt Nestor

By Matt Nestor
Sports Columnist

The Guilford Vikings baseball team are the 4th seed heading into the IHSA class 4A regionals this week. But they are playing as well as anyone in the conference heading in.

The Vikings struggled early in the season, but finished strong to have one of their best seasons ever.

In their last 15 games, the Vikings only lost twice, both to conference champions and No. 2 seed Hononegah. That helped Guilford to a school-record 14 conference victories and a 25-8 record overall.

“We’re pretty confident,” Guilford coach Steve Mrizek said. “In the second half of the conference, that’s 10 in a row. We’re feeling pretty confident. We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now.”

The Vikings have been led all year by Valparaiso recruit Cyrus Wimberly, their No. 1 pitcher and arguably the best shortstop in the conference. But Mrizek said his entire team is stepping up right now, especially with senior catcher Ryan Blume out.

“Everyone knows about (Wimberly), but not everyone knows about these other guys,” he said. “And they’re stepping up to the plate and being the leaders they need to be in situations. We lost our senior catcher, but guys are stepping up and doing what they need to do, and that’s really helping us out.”

If the Vikings are the best at anything in the conference, it may be their depth. The pitching and defense has lapses, and the offense overall may not be as good as Boylan’s, but everyone in the lineup can hit, and they can run the bases, which helps keep them in every game.

“We’re battling and doing what we got to do to win games,” Mrizek said after a 9-4 win over Harlem in which his team committed four errors. “Today wasn’t pretty, we’re just doing what we have to do.”

And what the Vikings have done over the second half is pick up as many big wins as the conference champs.

Among the wins in the Vikings’ 13-game win streak that was sandwiched by Hononegah losses was the win over Harlem, the third seed in the regional, and a win over Boylan, at the time their first conference loss.

“We always seem to have some unlikely heroes,” Mrizek said. “Our team is finally starting to play baseball the way we want them to. They have really brought in to our approaches at the plate and in the field. They realize we’re not out of any game. The pitching hasn’t always been what we want sometimes, but we can be very good at times. If we can do enough to win, hopefully our defense can step up and make the plays.”

The regional is being played at Harlem. The winner of Monday’s Guilford and Auburn matchup will play Boylan on Wednesday. Harlem and Hononegah will play on Thursday. The winners will play on Saturday. All games start at 4:30 pm.

From the May 26-June 1, 2010 issue

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